Saturday, 26 September 2009

Coming out of the neverending closet

I’ve come out of the closet at least seven times this week. To my newsagent, to my friend’s mum, to the Wood Green Cineworld ticket attendant, to you… The list goes on.

I thought when I finally spat it out four years ago that that was that. I was OUT. How wrong I was. Every time you meet a new acquaintance who doesn’t have inbuilt gaydar, and can’t instantly pinpoint you as a homosexual from 500 paces, you have to announce yourself AGAIN. If I gathered up everyone I’d ever come out to and laid them end to end, they’d reach from here to Hebden Bridge.

The intricate coming out process never gets any easier. There inevitably comes a stress-inducing point in a conversation with a new person where you feel the absolute necessity to reveal your status at that very second, like you’re keeping a great secret and can’t conceal it any longer. It’s like Year 11 all over again. This will unavoidably lead to you dropping in the fact of your gayness at totally inopportune moments, strategically mentioning your girlfriend at the earliest opportunity, or confessing that you’re currently reading Sarah Waters. Anything to get over that coming out hurdle.

I personally would have thought that my short back ‘n’ sides would be a dead giveaway, along with my decidedly non-flouncy attire. Not so, it seems. The fact is, I’ll have to come out on an almost daily basis until the sacred day, the long awaited day when all our awkward come-outs will cease: the day Blackberry finally come up with their newest application: the Lez Detector.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

My so-called life as an intern

So Caster Semenya is indeed female, but, according to the BBC, one with three times as much testosterone as the average woman. Nature or nurture? Her coach, Dr Ekkart Arbeit, head of the South African team, was notorious for his doping techniques during the 1970s and 1980s, but insists that his coaching methods are now clean. As I watched coverage about Semenya's return to an ecstatic South Africa, I wondered what would happen if it was discovered that she *had* cheated, or, like several athletes before her was found to be genetically male. There is something about the cautiousness with which the British media has approached this issue that intrigues me: on the one hand I think it's great that she is given the benefit of the doubt. On the other, I don't think her controversy has led to a mainstream discussion of gender; rather it has led to heated debates about privacy, sensitivity and racism.

Being a mere intern, I do not claim to have any special knowledge about gender, but I have been called 'sir' enough times to empathise with Semenya's coolness about the whole thing: despite being 5'4, having a B cup and hair fast approaching my shoulders, I am mistaken for a guy at least two or three times a month - usually by security staff, washroom attendants and the elderly. I don't see anything wrong with it and sometimes I enjoy the fact that a hulking security guard is showing (inadvertent) deference to the fact that I am, admittedly, a bit of a lady-boy. But the more I read about Semenya, the more I wonder about how society might look if it were organised around different criteria; why male and female in a sports competition? If characteristics over-lap, why not have groups according to how much testosterone you have? It would be akin to the paralympics, which is grouped according to the severity of the athlete's disability.

That said, here in the DIVA offices we discovered the folly of attempting to organise society into arbitrary halves; what if there was the intelligent and unintelligent toilet? Or the ugly / beautiful changing rooms? What if a plane was divided up according to Dog people and Cat people, instead of first, business and economy?

Oh, what then.

In other news: climate camp in London. Well done to the campaigners in Blackheath who are out-smarting the police. I happen to have two friends who will be joining the camp and they've encouraged me to visit. But oh how I will boil in my own hypocrisy; I fly, I use plastic bags, I eat terrible things like palm oil and tuna. Can you imagine?

"Intern, why are you here at Climate Camp today?"

"To abate my crippling sense of moral worthlessness."

Saying that, there was a mini poll this morning about how everyone had got to work; most of us had taken some combination of foot, bike and bus. One staff member, however, gave a suspicious description of her 'bike'; apparently she had to touch in with her oyster card before getting on...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

My so-called life as an intern for DIVA

Usually the Transport For London website is a convenient tool for planning bike routes around London, but today, on my first day as an intern I found myself riding in ever widening circles around the Holloway Road trying to follow the omissive directions I'd found online. The site said fifteen minutes from A to B, so I gave myself thirty, and forty-five minutes later I was muttering obscenities loud enough to startle pedestrians, doing giant U-turns in the middle of busy roads and zooming through red lights. It was already ten minutes past ten in the morning and despite the relaxed hours kept my magazine journalists, I knew I was pushing it.

The thing is, I've just returned from Canada where I became very used to cycling on the right hand side and being able to SEE street signs because they were on posts on the corner of the street, not TACKED TO THE SIDE OF A BUILDING or strung up against some railings being rapidly overtaken by The Bush. So maybe it wasn't all TFL's fault, but couple their failure to mention CRUCIAL TURNINGS in the journey description plus London's medieval layout - I'm not a local, in case you were wondering - and you've got yourself a stereotype: sweaty, bedraggled, be-dreadlocked, arms festooned with ragged festival wristbands, I struggle in to the office wearing a purple tank top and bright yellow trainers half an hour late. My heart is pounding, my shirt's stuck to my back and suddenly I'm aware that I am dressed like a courier.

Despite having worked in the DIVA offices before, I paused for a moment wondering if I might be subject to the evil stares of well-dressed queers, but within an hour of arriving at my desk my fears are abated as all editorial eyes scrutinise a heart-warming calendar - available NOW for 2010! - depicting lesbians from New Zealand posing with their pooches. Flicking through it I notice there's a sad truth to the myth of the lesbian urge to merge. The two women on the front cover look like kissing cousins. It's not all glamour at DIVA though, my next task involves doing research on how to get out of it. If only the editor knew how much I've been practicing for this moment for the best part of my adult life.
- The Intern

DIVA's exclusive Martina Navratilova auction closes at £310!

DIVA magazine's exclusive auction for a signed photo of Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova has sold for £310.All proceeds from the online sale, which closed at 11.17am on 16 August, will go to the charity, Save the Rhino International.

Save the Rhino works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia.

Speaking to DIVA, Cathy Dean, Director of Save the Rhino International, said: “Martina is such a star; she has supported us for years. Her help now is so valuable, because despite our best efforts, rhino poaching is at a 15-year high.

“The £310 raised from the sale of this signed photo is enough to pay the salary of one of our game scouts for a year – every bit really does help.”

The auction, which started 6 August 2009 at 99p, lasted for ten days, steadily rising day after day with a total of 30 bids.

The stunning magazine shoot, including the aforementioned photo, is part of a 5-page spread in the new issue and took place in central London, last month. The edition is available to buy now.

During her interview, Navratilova talks romance, press intrusion and, of course, sport. Speaking to editor Jane Czyzselska, she said: "When I've cried after matches, it wasn't about the tennis. In 1976 it was the first anniversary of my defection from Czechoslovakia and the cry was about 'Oh my God, I've lost the first round and what's my life coming to. Did I make the right decision?"

For more information about Save the Rhino, visit them at